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Striking midcentury modern on an architecturally blessed block in Altadena asking $1.089M

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Restored and updated to perfection

Located in the foothills just south of Mount Lowe, Altadena’s Sunny Oaks Circle is a miniature paradise of pedigreed post-and-beams. In the early 1950s, the tree-lined block became something of a testing ground for the style of California Modernism emerging from USC’s School of Architecture, spearheaded by USC instructor/Case Study architect Calvin Straub.

Along with Straub’s own former residence, Sunny Oaks Circle contains homes by Harold Bissner, Jr., Richard Leitch, Douglas Byles, and the firm of Fetridge, Wilde and Lundy, who produced this dashing specimen that’s now on the market.

Per its listing, the 1,755-square-foot post and beam has been “updated and restored over the last few years with great attention to detail and sensitivity to the home’s architectural integrity.”

Standout features include polished concrete floors, clerestory windows, beamed ceilings, walls of glass, a triangulated brick fireplace, and Bouquet Canyon stone walls.

The three-bedroom home’s kitchen and baths have been revamped, as well as its HVAC and plumbing systems.

On a bucolic lot measuring 8,205 square feet, it’s asking $1.089 million. Open house is scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

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Restored 1941 modern by R.M. Schindler returns asking $1.9M

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Simple and handsome, with treetop views

From the street, it might not make you do a double take, but 3807 Reklaw Drive in Studio City, concealed by hedges and a stucco fence, holds a “meticulously updated” dwelling designed by R.M. Schindler.

Landing on the market again today for the third time in its 77-year-history, the two-bedroom home is a fine example of the work for which Schindler—LA’s experimental, modern master architect—is known and regarded.

Built in 1941, the rectilinear residence is simple but handsome (a “small-scaled de Stijl composition” is how An Architectural Guidebook to Los Angeles​ describes it). Made of wood-frame and concrete, it’s tucked into a hilly 6,371-square-foot lot with an abundance of windows affording verdant canyon views and streams of natural light.

After all these years, it retains its original built-in furniture and wood paneling. A few years back, it underwent a sensitive rehabilitation that included carefully stripping paint from wood and replicating doors and windows.

Sold for $1.5 million in 2015, it’s listed now with a $1.89 million price tag.

 © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)
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10 million-year-old whale bone found while building new subway below Downtown LA

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The bone was found in a wall at the Broadway station.

Construction crews working on Metro’s Regional Connector dug up the fossil

Paleontologists working with construction crews on a new subway station in Downtown LA have unearthed a rare remnant of an era when the Los Angeles basin sat at the bottom of the ocean.

A bone found in a wall of the future Broadway station, part of Metro’s ambitious Regional Connector project, has been “tentatively identified” as a whale vertebra, Courtney Richards, principal paleontologist on the project, tells Metro’s news blog, the Source,

According to Richards, the whale likely lived during the Miocene epoch and is between 10 and 15 million years old. Because the bone was discovered in a wall of the station, the fossil won’t be fully excavated, but fragments chipped away during construction will be donated to LA’s Natural History Museum.

The museum is gaining a nice collection of fossils found during work on the numerous tunneling projects underway across Los Angeles. As Metro builds out its rail network, paleontologists are working to ensure relics from the city’s geologic past are preserved and identified when construction crews dig them up.

In 2017, prehistoric camel bones were discovered beneath the Purple Line’s future Wilshire/La Brea station. That same year crews working on the Crenshaw/LAX Line found the remains of an ancient sloth below Crenshaw Boulevard.

Metro fossil regional connector
Fragments of the fossil were removed and will be donated to the Natural History Museum.

The Regional Connector project, which will eventually connect the Expo and Blue lines to Union Station, brings the possibility of new excavation to Downtown LA for the first time since construction wrapped up on the Red Line in the early 1990s.

While the subway was under construction, workers unearthed “the oldest and most diverse collection” of Miocene-era fossils ever found in Los Angeles, says to the Source.

Among the highlights: mastodon teeth and the toes of a prehistoric horse, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Construction on Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX Line months behind schedule

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Tracks for the Crenshaw Line on Crenshaw Boulevard.

Will its fall 2019 opening be delayed?

Construction is lagging behind schedule on Los Angeles’s Crenshaw/LAX Line, and the new rail route may not open on time, according to Metro’s chief program management officer, Richard Clarke.

At a meeting of the Metro board’s construction committee Thursday, Clarke said that Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors, the firm tasked with building the 8.5-mile light rail line, is five months behind schedule on the project.

Metro aims to open the line to riders in fall of 2019.

Boardmember Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker pressed for details on the delays, including when the train is now expected to be up and running.

“I’m almost afraid to ask,” she said.

Clarke stressed that Metro is working with the contractor to figure out ways to speed up the project, but declined to provide a “finite date” for when riders can expect to be able to make use of the new transit route.

Extending from the intersection of Exposition and Crenshaw boulevards in the north (where riders can transfer to the Expo Line) to Aviation and Century boulevards in the south, the line will pass through the communities of Leimert Park, Baldwin Hills, Hyde Park, and Inglewood.

After the Aviation/Century stop, it will link up with the existing Green Line rail route, though which segment of the Green Line it will be connected to hasn’t yet been determined.

Clarke said Thursday that work on the Crenshaw/LAX Line is 86 percent complete, but that electrical work on the northern part of the line is proving to be much more time consuming than anticipated.

Metro is pushing Walsh/Shea to “increase the resources” on that part of the project, Clarke said.

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Striking 1960s post and beam by Buff and Hensman seeks $1.4M

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The glassy modern house was designed by architects Buff and Hensman

Built in 1965, this glassy modern home in La Cañada Flintridge is looking for its second owner since 1971.

The 2,423-square-foot house was designed by prolific Southern California architects Conrad Buff and Donald Hensman, and many of its original details appear to have been kept nicely intact.

Resembling an L-shaped glass box, the post and beam-style residence is surrounded by trees and opens to several spacious decks and patios.

Inside are three bedrooms and three bathrooms, with wood-paneled walls, Saltillo tile floors, built-in shelving, and vintage teak cabinetry. Tall ceilings and clerestory windows accentuate the home’s light and airy feel, which is especially present in the living room, where the ceiling expands to double height around the elegant fireplace.

The house sits on a half-acre lot with neatly landscaped vegetation and a large swimming pool and spa.

Asking price is $1.35 million.

Living room with fireplace
Breakfast area
Kitchen
Bedroom with vanity
Bedroom with tile floor
Deck with outdoor seating

Planning director says LA could hit the mayor’s housing goal two years early

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Mayor Eric Garcetti set the 100,000 unit goal in 2014.

But “there’s still a lot more we need to do”

Los Angeles may reach a housing goal set by Mayor Eric Garcetti ahead of schedule, according to the city’s planning director, Vince Bertoni.

In 2014, Garcetti announced plans to spur development of 100,000 new units of housing in the city by 2021. Bertoni told the City Council’s planning and land use management committee Tuesday that the Department of City Planning has approved projects containing 106,000 units since then.

Not all of those developments have been completed yet, and some could still fall through. But Bertoni said that, with three years left to hit the mayor’s target, the Department of Building and Safety has already issued building permits for projects totaling 83,000 units.

Given that it often takes up to a year for developers to receive these permits once their plans have been approved, Bertoni predicted that LA could hit its 100,000-unit target as soon as next year.

“We’re probably ahead of track to achieve that number,” he said Tuesday.

Garcetti framed the goal as a crucial element of the city’s efforts to address a statewide housing affordability crisis. But it’s clear there’s plenty of work left on that front.

Since 2014, rents and real estate prices have continued to climb, and the city’s homeless population has ballooned. A recent report from the California Housing Partnership and the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing found that LA needs more than 550,000 new units of affordable housing to satisfy renter demand.

“There’s still a lot more we need to do,” Bertoni acknowledged Tuesday.

In spite of LA’s mini building boom since 2014, the city is still behind in meeting goals for affordable housing production.

According to a report released earlier this year by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the city has produced less than a quarter of the low- and very low-income units needed to satisfy its 2021 targets.

New incentives for developers who include affordable units in projects near transit may help. Established as a result of Measure JJJ, which LA voters approved in 2016, the incentives went into effect last year.

Since then, developers have proposed more than 1,100 units of affordable housing in projects that take advantage of the incentives, according to a planning department report. Nearly 1,700 additional affordable units have been proposed since passage of JJJ, which requires developers of many major projects to set aside a small percentage of housing for lower-income earners.

Bertoni said continuing to encourage construction of housing for people of all income levels would help address the city’s homelessness crisis.

“At the end of the day, people are homeless because they can’t afford to pay the rent or the mortgage to have a place to live on their own,” he said.

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What $1,450 rents in LA right now

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Apartments in Burbank and Los Feliz

Welcome to Curbed Comparisons, where we explore what you can rent or buy for a certain dollar amount in various LA ’hoods. We’ve found five rentals within $100 of today’s price, $1,450. Vote for your favorite below.

 Via Zillow

With those bold colors and breeze blocks out front, this Burbank building looks like something straight out of Palm Springs. Inside the one-bedroom apartment, there are high, beamed ceilings, new carpet, and ceiling fans. The unit comes with one parking space and rents for $1,500.

 Via Zillow

This one-bedroom in Koreatown features hardwood floors, crown molding, granite counters in the kitchen, and big windows, which keep things sunny inside. One downside: There’s only street parking. The apartment rents for $1,495.

 Via Zillow

The studio apartment up for grabs here is in this lovely garden apartment complex in Los Feliz, just south of Franklin. The apartment comes with a dishwasher, on-site laundry, and parking. It rents for $1,425.

This Glendale bungalow apartment has a cute kitchen with yellow and white counter tiles and a built-in dining nook. Laminate wood floors run throughout the unit, as do large, vintage-looking windows. A short walk from the Americana at Brand, the studio apartment rents for $1,550.

 Via Zillow

Off La Brea in Inglewood, this one-bedroom, lower-level apartment offers a small patio, carpeted floors, double closets in the bedroom, and central air conditioning. Parking is included, and there are on-site laundry machines. It rents for $1,500.

UC Berkeley report defends rent control in California cities

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More than a dozen California cities, including Los Angeles, have some form of rent control.

“Only rent control will provide a near-term solution”

An upcoming ballot measure has renewed debate around California over the merits of rent control and the ability of local lawmakers to address the state’s severe shortage of affordable housing.

Less than a month after UC Berkeley economist Kenneth Rosen published a paper arguing, among other things, that rent control policies have worsened the state’s housing shortage, a separate group of researchers from the school’s Haas Institute released a policy brief today arguing that rent control can be a useful tool cities can use to “address the immediate needs of California’s renters.”

In his paper, Rosen argues explicitly against Proposition 10, which would repeal the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act and give California cities the ability to cap rent increases on condos, single-family homes, and apartments built after 1995 (though cities would not be required to do any of these things).

The Haas Institute policy brief, on the other hand, does not mention Proposition 10 and represents a broader defense of rent control policies.

The study was written by Haas researcher Nicole Montojo, former Berkeley housing director Stephen Barton, and Eli Moore, who leads the California Community Partnerships Program at the Haas Institute.

The authors dispute the common argument that rent regulations constrain the supply of housing in cities by discouraging new development—making prices higher in the long run.

They point out that, since 2000, development of new apartments in the largest California cities with rent control—Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland—has outpaced the rate of construction in surrounding areas. (All four cities, however, are lagging behind their housing production goals, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development).

“Can we protect overburdened renters from exorbitant rents and displacement while also increasing the needed supply of housing?” they write. “We believe the answer is ‘yes.’”

With or without rent control, increasing the needed housing supply won’t be easy. According to the sate’s housing department, California needs 1.8 million new units of housing by 2025 to meet projected population growth. Even more will be needed to meaningfully drive down housing costs.

In Los Angeles alone, the Southern California Association of Nonprofit Housing estimates that 568,255 units of affordable housing are needed to satisfy demand from residents.

Proponents and critics of rent control policies generally agree that California’s affordability crisis is severe. The question is whether regulating rent increases will create more problems than it solves.

Given how much time it will take for developers to build all that new housing, the study’s authors argue cities should take immediate action to protect existing residents. Even if rent control does come with some negative consequences (like lower tax revenue for cities), they maintain that it’s a worthwhile tradeoff to ensure lower-income renters are able to stay in their homes.

“Housing production and tenant protections are needed, but only rent control will provide a near-term solution for renters,” they write.

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Inglewood home values are soaring—blame the NFL stadium

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The massive venue isn’t open yet, but sellers are already collecting LA’s highest profits

“Inglewood is to be the new home for the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers,” proclaims a listing for a three-bedroom home at the northern edge of the city, just a few miles from the colossal steel husk that will eventually become the world’s most expensive sports arena.

At the end of July, Curbed surveyed more than 80 online real estate listings in the city of Inglewood, where residents are preparing for the arrival of two major sports franchises two decades after the Lakers and Kings departed for the Staples Center in 1999. More than half of the listings mentioned the NFL stadium or the sprawling complex of apartments, restaurants, and retail businesses set to rise right next door.

One listing included just two photos: an exterior shot of a three-bedroom home and a flashy rendering of the future stadium, as if buying a house in Inglewood were equivalent to snagging a seat on the 45-yard line.

Inglewood’s massive new NFL stadium will open to the public in just two short years. Eventually it will be joined by a huge mixed-use development with more than 3,000 units of housing. The projects will thoroughly transform the 300 acres of land where the old Hollywood Park racetrack once stood.

But what about the city around it? Home values in Inglewood are rising quickly. Since January 2016—when the NFL agreed to let the Rams and Chargers relocate to Inglewood—the median price of homes in the city jumped 37.3 percent, according to data provided to Curbed by Zillow.

That’s roughly double the rate at which home values grew across Los Angeles County, where prices climbed 18.7 percent over the same time period.

Inglewood home prices went up in the two years leading up to 2016 as well, but at a rate closer to that of the rest of the county: 17 percent, compared to a little under 15 percent countywide.

In less than seven years, the median price of a home in Inglewood has more than doubled.

It’s not just the stadium that’s enticing buyers, says Stuart Gabriel, director of the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate.

The arrival of the Crenshaw/LAX rail line, which is set to open next year, along with a proposed arena for the Los Angeles Clippers and new development in and around nearby LAX, could further inflate home values in the area.

The city’s location—close to the beach cities of the South Bay and emerging tech hubs on the Westside—may also be attracting new buyers.

“It’s really the last affordable, extremely well-located community,” says Gabriel.

At an open house in August, realtor Lori Penix showed a family from San Diego around a recently remodeled condo close to the city’s border with LA’s upscale Westchester neighborhood. Stepping across the fresh laminate floors of the living room, the prospective buyers asked whether it would be easy to get from Inglewood to Santa Monica once the Crenshaw/LAX Line opens.

“The station’s only about a mile away,” said Penix, encouragingly.

Scheduled to start service at the end of 2019, the light rail will link the city to the county’s growing rail network, connecting at its northern end to the Expo Line, which began ferrying riders between Downtown LA and Santa Monica in 2016.

Inglewood’s location has always made it a “hot market,” says realtor Janet Singleton, who has 27 years of experience selling homes in the area. But, she says, the stadium and future train “brought more visibility” to buyers who might once have focused their searches on more upscale Westside communities.

Penix, who lives in Inglewood, says buyers from outside the community who have preconceived notions about the city are often surprised by what they find.

“A lot of people come with a certain perception of what the neighborhood is,” she says, “and then they get here and they say, ‘Oh, okay, this is just like Mar Vista.’”

Property owners are reaping the benefits of new interest in the city. Homeowners in Inglewood collected higher profits when selling their residences in 2017 than those in any other city in Los Angeles County, according to sales data released by Zillow.

Those who sold last year did so for a price that was, on average, nearly 80 percent higher than what they paid. The median dollar amount that sellers pocketed in these sales was $186,500 above the last purchase price.

Part of that is because Inglewood sellers held on to their homes for longer than those selling in other areas, allowing more time for the value of those residences to appreciate. The typical Inglewood seller in 2017 had owned their home for 11.6 years, compared to a median of 9.7 years across all cities in the county.

The amount of time sellers have owned their homes can’t entirely explain the city’s rapid price growth. Homeowners in just three other LA County cities saw profits of more than 50 percent when selling in 2017.

But most Inglewood residents don’t stand to benefit from a hot real estate market—the majority of them are renters. Fewer than 35 percent of homes in the city are owner-occupied.

Many renters worry they won’t have a place in the “new Inglewood” that emerges once construction wraps up on major projects like the NFL stadium and the Crenshaw Line, says Woodrow Curry, a member of the tenant coalition Uplift Inglewood, a group that has advocated for citywide rent control and more affordable housing.

“We know how this plays out,” Curry says. “We’ve worked closely with people who have experienced this in their own communities, such as Boyle Heights, Silver Lake, Echo Park… this happens all over.”

Rents in Inglewood haven’t increased as quickly as home values, but that’s little consolation to tenants who’ve faced a 12.2 percent jump in rental prices since 2016, according to CoStar. Countywide, rents have risen 7.4 percent over the same time period.

“There’s undoubtedly going to be a displacement effect for existing residents,” Gabriel says.

Uplift Inglewood launched a ballot initiative earlier this year to bring rent control protections to the city, but the group wasn’t able to gather enough signatures to put the issue before voters in November.

With limits on rent increases unlikely, Curry says he wants city leaders to do more to bring new affordable and senior housing to Inglewood.

Inglewood hasn’t produced a single unit of affordable housing since the end of 2013, when all LA County cities were required to set housing goals for the next seven years, according to a report released earlier this year by the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

“After not having investment in our community for so long, we welcome new development,” says Curry. “We just want that investment to be people and community centered.”

Inglewood has gone through dramatic changes before. Incorporated in 1908, it had a population of 1,536 in 1910. By 1930, after oil was discovered beneath its soil, the number of residents had increased more than tenfold, and that growth continued during and after World War II, fostered in part by the South Bay’s booming aviation industry.

Starting in the 1960s, the city underwent a different kind of change. As LA school districts made plans to desegregate and black and brown residents moved into neighborhoods once governed by racially exclusive covenants, white residents across LA began abandoning some of the region’s most central urban areas.

Inglewood was no exception.

In 1960, the city was more than 99 percent white and home to just 29 black residents, according to U.S. census data. By 1980, 57 percent of Inglewood residents were black and less than 30 percent were white. Between 1970 and 1980, the city lost almost 50,000 white residents while its overall population continued to rise.

Inglewood’s demographics continue to shift. Today, roughly 43 percent of residents are black, while more than 50 percent are Hispanic or Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Gabriel says it’s hard to predict how new development will change the community that now makes up Inglewood because the largest projects are concentrated in a relatively small portion of the city.

“One contending vision is that the combination of Silicon Beach; rail infrastructure; investment coming from the airport, the stadium; and all the rest will ultimately cause a very real, substantive, integrated economic revitalization of Inglewood,” Gabriel says.

“But another possibility is that the stadium will be a self-contained island of economic activity—that people will drive in and out of the stadium from all parts of the LA basin, but that all this economic activity will not extend to the local Main Street.”

Whatever the long-term economic effects of the stadium turn out to be, there’s no question that real estate professionals are taking advantage of the excitement around its impending arrival.

Many listings seem targeted specifically at developers and speculative buyers. “Huge upside potential,” reads an ad for a small three-bedroom residence. “Calling investors,” says another listing, for a two-bedroom on the north side of the city.

Singleton says real estate investors are descending on the area, making it trickier for traditional buyers to close deals.

“Buyers have to be ready to compete,” she says. “They’re up against cash offers all the time.”

Residents who already own their homes also find themselves in a tight spot.

“Buyers who bought their first home in Inglewood are happy to hear what their home is worth,” Singleton says. “But their incomes have not tripled, so they can’t afford to buy up anywhere else.”

Penix says she has also noticed investor interest. But, she maintains, it’s not just the stadium driving buyers to the area.

“Maybe it’s because I live here, but I really feel like it’s like any other part of LA,” she says.

Whether it’s the stadium or other forces driving up real estate prices, Penix says residents have taken notice.

“Some people aren’t loving the changes,” she says. “They get upset when new people come in and try to steer the community, as if people haven’t been asking for the same things for years.”

Curry says he’s worried that more affluent residents will fundamentally alter the city’s identity.

“My fear is that Inglewood loses its spirit,” he says. “We have a history of being a great working-class city… when you change that, you change the spirit of the city.”

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Burbank midcentury built by Disneyland designer asks $1.3M

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It was the longtime home of one of Disney’s original imagineers

This modern-style residence in Burbank sits alongside the LA River, less than a mile from Walt Disney Studios.

That must have made things easy for its designer, Disney artist Claude Coats, who built the home for himself in 1940—the same year that the company opened its new headquarters in Burbank.

Coats worked on many of the studio’s classic films from the 1940s and ’50s, and later transitioned to a role as one of the company’s “imagineers,” the artists and designers behind the Disney theme parks.

One of the original architects of Disneyland, Coats worked on many of the park’s most beloved rides, including It’s a Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion. A set designer and background artist, Coats is often credited with giving Disneyland’s dark rides a moody and mysterious atmosphere.

His longtime home in Burbank is quite the opposite, with airy interiors and pastel colors throughout. Still owned by the Coats family, the house has recently been remodeled, but has never before been listed on the market.

The 1,807-square-foot residence has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a living room that features built-in shelving and a fireplace. The kitchen is equipped with a breakfast nook, and the master bathroom retains some nice vintage tile.

Sitting on a quarter-acre lot, the home has a grassy yard with orange trees and a classic kidney-shaped pool in the back.

Asking price is $1.279 million.

Living room
Kitchen
Bedroom
Bathroom
Backyard
Back patio
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Here’s what $1.1M buys around LA

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We’ve got five options, from Los Feliz to Venice

Welcome to Curbed Comparisons, where we explore what you can rent or buy for a certain dollar amount in various LA ’hoods. We’ve found five homes and condos within $10,000 of today’s price: $1.1 million.

Front yard of house
Living room
Kitchen
BedroomAlex Zarour/Virtually Here Studios, courtesy Dominique Madden, ACME Real Estate

This 1920s bungalow in Highland Park sold last summer (for $590,000), and has been thoroughly transformed since then. Renovated by ResetLA and Vein Design, it’s got new wood floors, light fixtures, appliances, countertops, and cabinetry. The house has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and skylights and French doors keep it light and airy. Sitting on a 6,743-square-foot lot, the home is asking $1.099 million.

Front yard
Living and dining room
Bedroom
Backyard pergolaVia Rachel Hsieh, Jodi Barmash, Keller Williams

Here’s a cozy two-bedroom residence in Palms with one bathroom and 928 square feet of floor space. Built in 1941, it’s got original hardwood floors, but plumbing and electrical have been upgraded. Behind the house is a pergola-shaded patio and a detached garage that’s been converted into a studio or office space. Sitting on a 4,997-square-foot lot, the house is asking $1.099 million.

Living room
Bedroom 1
Bedroom 2
Patio furnitureVia Penny Muck, Tami Pardee, Halton Pardee and Partners

Blocks from the boardwalk in Venice is this two-bedroom condo with a pair of bathrooms and 1,188 square feet of living space. Featuring tile floors and sliding glass doors, the unit also has a step-down living room equipped with a fireplace. A spacious deck has room for open-air seating and a garden. The building has a swimming pool and a parking garage. Asking price is $1.115 million, with HOA dues of $442 per month.

Front lawn
Living room
Study
Tile bathroomVia Roderick McDaniel, Rodney L. Walker, Huntington Browne

This View Park home needs some TLC, but boasts some lovely original details, from the hardwood floors to the tile bathrooms. Built in 1933, the Spanish-style house has two bedrooms and three bathrooms. Other interior features include beamed ceilings, built-in shelving, and a dramatic winding staircase with wrought iron railings. The house sits on a 8,293-square-foot lot with a large front lawn and a backyard with a detached garage. Asking price is $1.099 million.

Front view of house
Den
Bedroom
BackyardVia Peter Lorimer, PLG Estates

This traditional-style home sits on a compact 3,312-square-foot lot on the eastern edge of Los Feliz. Inside are two bedrooms and two bathroooms, with 1,250 square feet of floor space. The property may be small, but there’s plenty of outdoor space, including a long wooden deck, a tile patio, and a strip of yard below. Asking price is $1.095 million.

History series Lost LA returns, taking a look at places Angelenos go to get away

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Ghost towns, desert hotspots, Venice Beach, and Disneyland

For its forthcoming third season, KCET history series Lost LA sets its sights beyond Los Angeles and takes a look at places Angelenos go to relax and get out of the city.

Host Nathan Masters of USC Libraries explores the backstories of Yosemite National Park, California’s deserts, spooky old ghost towns, Southern California’s vibrant beach culture, Disneyland, and Venice.

Through a combination of present-day interviews and photographs and other archival materials, Masters pieces together fading but vital pieces of the stories of these places, creating narratives that are exciting for the history buff and neophyte alike.

The season’s first episode, on Yosemite, charts the story of the people indigenous to the valley that later became the park; explores a 1970 riot in Yosemite; and takes a look at the backstory of the famed Yosemite Firefall, a spectacle that involved pouring burning embers down a mountain from the top of Glacier Point.

“With this season we are exploring the far reaching impact LA’s past has had beyond the city’s borders,” says Juan Devis, KCETLink’s chief creative officer. “The ebb and flow of Angelenos visiting these areas has helped to shape their identities, and created powerful links to the lives of its many residents.”

The new season begins October 9 on KCET. It will also stream live at kcet.org/lostla. Episodes will also be available for streaming on YouTube, Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Prime.

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Town House, remnant of Westlake’s glitzy past, targeted for renovations

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A nonprofit wants to purchase and rehabilitate the historic building.

Now a low-income housing complex, it was once a luxurious hotel

Renovations and a change of ownership may be in the works for a historic high-rise near the border of Westlake and Koreatown.

Built in 1929, the Town House, which sits across the street from Lafayette Park, was once among the most luxurious apartment buildings in Los Angeles. It became a city landmark in 1993 and was later converted into a low-income housing complex.

Now, a nonprofit group called Communities for a Better Life is seeking to purchase and rehabilitate the building, though it would still be used as affordable housing.

The organization has requested a $28 million loan from the California Municipal Finance Authority, a state agency that funds housing and infrastructure projects. On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council will vote on whether to approve its part of that deal.

It’s not yet clear what kind of renovations the developer plans to undertake on the building, but because of the building’s landmark status, any exterior work will have to be approved by the city’s historic resources office.

 Los Angeles Public Library
The building’s onetime lobby.

The Norman W. Alpaugh-designed building has undergone many changes over the years. When it opened, the Los Angeles Times noted that each unit in the $4 million complex was equipped with seven electronic buttons used to summon maid and valet service.

The collection of Wedgwood china in the building’s restaurant was “the most valuable outside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

At the time the Wilshire corridor was emerging as one of the city’s most fashionable stretches of real estate, known to some boosters as the “Champs Elysees of the Pacific.”

Converted to a hotel in 1937, the Town House was also home to the swanky Zebra Room lounge, where everything from the upholstery to the tableware followed the zebra-stripe theme.

The building sold to Conrad Hilton in 1942 and was for years a popular destination for Hollywood stars, from Bing Crosby to Betty Grable.

Sheraton took over the hotel in 1954, and operated it as the Sheraton Town House until sagging business forced the hotel to close in 1993. Amid threats of demolition, preservationists succeeded in landmarking the building later that year.

Eventually, in 2001, the building became low-income housing, with 142 affordable units. Amenities for residents include access to the building’s Olympic-size swimming pool—one of the first ever constructed in the city.

In LA, more than 20 percent of homebuyers pay in cash

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The share of cash buyers in LA went up slightly in 2018.

But that’s way down since the recession years

In the Los Angeles metro area, where median-priced homes sell for more than $600,000, and residences in the priciest parts of the region routinely command eight-digit prices, nearly one-quarter of all homebuyers pay in cash.

Across the LA region, 23.5 percent of homes sold during the second quarter (April to June) of this year went to all-cash buyers, according to real estate data tracker Attom Data Solutions

The share of buyers paying in cash has gone up slightly over the last year: 21.1 percent of homes sold to cash buyers in the second quarter of 2017.

A high rate of all-cash deals can inflate the value of homes in an area because buyers with the financial means to pay upfront can outbid those who must borrow money from a lender, says Oscar Wei, senior economist for the California Association of Realtors.

“From the standpoint of a buyer, when more people are offering all cash, that means they are at a disadvantage,” he says. “There’s no question about that.”

Part of that is because sellers often prefer cash offers, which result in quicker sales and have less chance of falling through during the escrow process.

But even though the share of buyers making all-cash purchase is up year-over-year, Wei says it is down significantly since the early months of 2013, when more than one-third of buyers were paying purchase prices out of pocket.

As the Los Angeles real estate market recovered from its recession-era collapse, investors and foreign buyers flooded the market at this time looking to capitalize on bargain basement prices.

“Cash was king back then,” says real estate agent Cricket Yee. “It was raining foreclosures, and people that had been saving their cash just for this opportunity were buying everything they could.”

Wei says investor interest has cooled since then, and cash offers aren’t making the same impact on the market today.

“As prices began to increase, investors started backing out,” he says. “They always look at it from a profitability standpoint.”

Yee agrees. She says in recent years she’s noticed a decline in the number of foreign buyers and parents purchasing homes for their children—two common sources of all-cash offers.

Still, the percentage of cash buyers is now nearly four times higher than it was in the second quarter of 2005, when buyers took out loans to pay for almost 94 percent of homes purchased in the LA area.

In the decade prior to the recession, Wei says, all-cash sales accounted for only around 11 percent of purchases.

But the fact that that percentage has more than doubled since then doesn’t necessarily mean there’s been a major uptick in well-heeled buyers. Rather the total number of buyers not paying in cash may have dropped.

Following the 2007 mortgage crisis, banks tightened up lending requirements for prospective buyers to avoid strings of defaults on risky loans like the ones that led up to the financial collapse. Wei says that, while those restrictions have been loosened since then, it’s still tougher to get a loan in 2018 than it was in the years leading up to the recession.

Mortgage interest rates are now on the rise as well, driving up monthly costs for homebuyers taking out loans.

“That really put a wet blanket on the market,” says Yee. Buyers have had to adjust expectations for what’s affordable, she explains, meaning that there’s less competition for homes in the upper price tiers.

But cash buyers don’t have to worry about lending requirements or mortgage interest rates. Wei says higher interest rates may actually make the market more appealing for buyers able to pay full price, since home shoppers worried about their monthly payments will be less likely to bid them up.

That means, barring any new taxes on real estate investors or a global economic meltdown, the share of buyers paying in cash probably won’t drop back down to pre-recession levels. But thanks to record-high prices, it might not rise much either.

“We are certainly not seeing properties at a bargain level,” Wei says.

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A 1949 Hollywood Hills home melds Old Hollywood glamour and midcentury cool

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A couple marries their East Coast roots with their distinctly Los Angeles house

In 1949, the iconic Hollywoodland sign in the Hollywood Hills was in dire need of a makeover. Its H had toppled over. Other letters were littered with pockmarks and were in general disrepair.

It was that year that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce came to the ailing sign’s rescue, restoring its letters and removing ‘LAND’ from the end, marking a new era.

1949 was also the year that Nick Weidenfeld and Amantha Walden’s home rose in the historic Los Angeles neighborhood of Whitley Heights, its identity split between Old Hollywood glamour and new midcentury modern.

A view of the couple’s house, shrouded in lush greenery and sporting black mullions that pop against a neutral facade.

In the lush, hilly neighborhood, Weidenfeld and Walden have made a home that merges Walden’s Southern roots, a stately flair inspired by Weidenfeld’s upbringing in Washington, D.C., and touches of midcentury modernism, all influenced by silent-screen-siren vibes.

Though it’s hard to imagine, they almost didn’t end up in the house. About five years ago, already in escrow on a home down the street with contractors on site talking renovations, Walden decided she needed to go for a walk to clear her head.

“This house was on the market and it was [being listed by] the same agent,” Walden explains. “I called the agent and said, ‘I think we’re making a mistake with this other house.’” She and Weidenfeld, after arranging to see the other home, decided to listen to their guts and go for it. Weidenfeld asserts that even though the shuffle was a bit stressful, it was the right move.

Whitley Heights “was built for the silent movie stars,” explains Walden. It’s where writers and actors lived in the golden age of cinema and today it still feels rich with Hollywood history and magic, yet somewhat a secret, adds Weidenfeld.

The couple’s interior designer Tamar Barnoon also created this custom console and shelving unit pair, built by Eric Evin. Artwork hangs between the two units. From left to right, they are works by Martin Basher, Karen Spector, and Jake Longstreth.
Walden and Weidenfeld’s home, in Whitley Heights, overlooks Los Angeles.

Many of the homes in the neighborhood, built in the 1920s and ’30s, took cues from the Italian or Spanish countryside. But because Walden and Weidenfeld’s home was built later, it absorbed the spirit of the period during midcentury modern design’s ascendancy.

Perched on a corner lot overlooking the city, and secluded by swaths of vegetation, the three-bedroom, 3.5-bath house is expansive at 2,600 square feet, but doesn’t feel sprawling. Large bays of windows with black mullions punctuate its off-white exterior, framing views like works of art.

A photo by Friedrich Kunath, right, hangs in the hallway.

It’s a fitting analogy: Walden and Weidenfeld are avid art collectors, from giants like Warhol and Dalí to contemporary artists like Martin Basher, Karen Spector, and Jake Longstreth, many of them friends of the couple’s. Photographs by Hellen Van Meene, Sagan Lockhart, and Michael Schmelling hold court in various rooms throughout the home. In the dining room, several portraits of Amantha by painter Joe Bowler, made throughout her childhood, serve as a focal point.

“I have this collection of paintings of me that I never really appreciated until after my parents were gone,” she says. “I thought it was sort of weird to have 20 portraits of yourself.” Once she had her own home, it became a connection to her past, something she saw differently.

“They are such a huge link to my past and my childhood, and they make me feel at home with my past and my life now,” she adds.

Weidenfeld, Walden, and their son outside the couple’s 1949 Whitley Heights home in Los Angeles.
Paintings of Walden throughout childhood hang in the dining room above a vintage table she inherited from her parents and a set of Cherner chairs. Artist Joe Bowler painted Walden from age 3-18 as his personal work. The light fixture is from GALLERY L7.

The couple collaborated with Tamar Barnoon, a close friend and designer, on the interiors. Once the couple acquired many of Walden’s parents’ furnishings and added their own, Barnoon helped them envision how it would all fit together. Barnoon wanted to let the character of the house shine while finding ways to unify the couple’s family heirlooms with their modern pieces.

“I have a lot of my parents’ stuff that is ornate, sort of Old World, and then our aesthetic is more modern,” says Amantha. “Tamar helped us really meld those two styles together. It really matches the house well because it does have both, too.”

Throughout the design process, Walden says Barnoon really thought about tying in certain aspects from the South and from the East Coast. She wanted to capitalize on details to bring the couple’s past into a California setting.

The dining nook is outfitted with a table from Artless Corporation, Prouvé Standard chairs, a George Nelson pendant lamp, and a photo by Michael Schmelling.

“We wanted the art and the views to play first and the space to feel accessible and polished,” Banoon says. “I kept the palette very neutral and a little graphic so that the art and the views of Hollywood popped against the background.”

Touches like the lush pastel pillows and coordinated lampshades reminded Walden of growing up in Atlanta, while the library and study, painted a sleek, contemporary black, drew on the dark, warm interiors of Weidenfeld’s Washington, D.C neighborhood of Georgetown.

A photo by Sagan Lockhart hangs above a Brendan Ravenhill wall light.
A Ligne Roset Togo sofa slouches next to a Noguchi table that is home to a cigar box lamp made by a relative of Walden’s. The photograph above the sofa is by Daniel Hennessy.

“That black led to that feeling of it being this sort of intimate space for reading or working, or quiet time,” Walden explains. “And we use it a little bit for entertaining, but it is mostly a room where we work or read.” Barnoon worked in the same shade of black as an accent around the house, from window trim to doors. “The traditional iron work in the house [was] a beautiful detail and we wanted to use that as much as possible to highlight the views [by framing them in the same color],” she explains.

The designer also suggested the couple look beyond mass-produced furnishings in a number of instances, instead recommending refurbished antiques, making use of marble slabs, or, in some cases, designing pieces herself, all in a mission to collaborate on an intensely personal design that spoke specifically of the house and its owners. (Barnoon is launching an online furniture store at the end of September.)

A piece by Yung Jake of Lil Peep hangs in the hallway, while two prints by Salvador Dalí hang against the black-painted wall.
A vintage sofa reupholstered in Knoll bouclé frames several pieces of custom furniture: The table, ottomans, and end tables are all collaborations commissioned by the couple’s interior designer, Tamar Barnoon. The table was made by Honeyedfigs, the end tables with Eric Evin, and the ottomans with EBJoinery.

Barnoon’s designs can be seen throughout the home, from a custom console and shelf to ottomans, end tables, and a coffee table. These are mixed in with classic midcentury pieces like a George Nelson pendant lamp, a Noguchi table, Cherner chairs, and a Ligne Roset Togo sofa, as well as contemporary furniture from the likes of Honeyedfigs. All of this is rounded out by vintage and antique furnishings from Walden’s parents.

Though Walden and Weidenfeld are soon parting with the house, they’re proud of the work they put into it. For Walden and Weidenfeld, the home’s rich history has allowed them to balance its charisma with their comfort, and make a space that suitably evokes the golden age of Hollywood—while imbuing it with their own energy.

Crossroads of the World redevelopment will raze 82 rent-controlled apartments

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The city struck a deal to give some of the tenants new apartments

The redevelopment of Crossroads of the World—one of the highest-profile projects in booming Hollywood—is poised to bring 950 units of new housing to Sunset Boulevard. But, in order to that, it will bulldoze 82 rent-controlled apartments.

The development plans have been kicking around for three years, but on Wednesday—the day before the city’s planning commission was scheduled to review the project—Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell announced he had struck a deal with the developer to help some tenants who would be displaced by construction.

The agreement will allow remaining tenants of the Sunset Las Palmas apartment building, which sits on the project site, to live in new Crossroads apartments—at the same price they’re paying today.

“I’m confident tenants will be taken care of,” said Samantha Millman, president of the planning commission, which voted Thursday to endorse the project.

Under the agreement, tenants will be charged “rental rates commensurate to their existing rates” for new apartments of a comparable size. Additionally, annual rent increases will be capped at 3 percent per year, similar to the main provisions of LA’s rent stabilization ordinance.

Representatives for Harridge Development Group told the commission that only about 40 residents still live in the Sunset Las Palmas apartments.

By the time the deal was struck, Harridge had already arranged cash buyouts with about half of the building’s tenants.

“It pains me to think about these [rent-stabilized] units coming off the market,” said commissioner Karen Mack. “We’re losing [rent-stabilized] units for middle-class people in Los Angeles. It’s incredible how many people who I talk to who… are having a hard time affording living in the city.”

Under city law, a property owner who knocks down a rent-stabilized building must give tenants money to help pay for relocation costs—but it doesn’t have to offer them replacement units in a new building.

In exchange for building denser than what city codes allow, Harridge will also set aside 105 affordable units for renters with “very low” incomes (this year, the qualifying income limit for a single-person household is $33,950).

“The project could end up with a 105 very-low income units and 40 de-facto RSO units,” said Kyndra Casper, a land use attorney working with Harridge.

But Sunset Las Palmas tenants who meet the affordable housing requirements will get affordable units instead of RSO-equivalent apartments. That could chip away at the number of affordable units that would have otherwise been offered to non-Sunset Las Palmas tenants.

That’s why commissioner Renee Dake Wilson wanted the developer to agree to add 82 more affordable units to the project.

But the majority of the commission didn’t back her up; a representative for Harridge told commissioners: “We’re already going above and beyond what we’re required to do.”

The 1.4-million-square-foot Crossroads Hollywood complex would rise up around two Los Angeles landmarks: Crossroads of the World and the former home of The Hollywood Reporter. The latter will remain intact because local preservationists intervened.

The redevelopment will entail the addition of 190,000 square feet of commercial space and a 308-room hotel on a site roughly bordered by Sunset Boulevard and Selma Avenue, east of McCadden Place.

Commissioner Marc Mitchell called it an iconic site that has largely sat dormant.

“This project is long overdue,” he said

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of affordable units that would be provided if Sunset Las Palmas tenants move into the project.

 
 
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